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And the band played on ... we hope

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Column by Jim Clark

When I was a young sportswriter, I used to cover high school football games, and barely noticed the band. They were just something to listen to during halftime while I added up my first-half statistics.
Then something funny happened. I became a band parent … for 12 straight years.
No, it wasn’t one child who had trouble getting out of high school. I had three sons, four years apart, who were all band members, so when one graduated, there was another to take his place.
I quickly learned, from the first summer band camp, how hard these young people work at their craft. For many, band was a class, but it was also long, hard, hot practices getting ready for the shows. And they were great shows put together by an excellent band director.
Those years changed my entire outlook on band programs.
So now here we are in 2011, and schools are cutting budgets. In Marion County, that means some music programs are losing some funds, at least for a year.
The band members, parents and boosters and instructors all think that’s wrong.
So do I.
All we hear from the politicians is that we have to improve education. It’s important, they say. Even in President Obama’s jobs speech last week, he spoke about education and fixing up the schools and rehiring teachers.
But education is more than reading, writing and rithmetic. (If you’re younger and don’t know what rithmetic means, ask your parents to sing you the song “School Days”).
Learning to appreciate the arts, even in a cursory way, is part of schooling.
That includes things like music and art. To deprive students of those classes is to let them graduate with a less-than-complete education.
Of course, not every child is interested in music, at least the type taught in school, or art. But they still need exposure to those programs. Cutting them, including music classes in younger grades and things like band in older classes, is counter-productive.
So I hope the school officials can take a longer look at these programs and find a way to keep them going at full strength. “The Day the Music Died” should not be a part of the high school memories of our students.

Jim Clark is the editor of the South Marion Citizen. He can be reached at 352-854-3986 or editor@smcitizen.com.